Early voters often brave long lines in order to cast their ballots ahead of election day, but a select few at Jefferson Parish’s East Bank government headquarters managed to avoid the wait. They got to vote on a special machine inside a conference room in parish Registrar of Voters Dennis DiMarco’s office, skipping the line. Not any more. That perk vanished Wednesday after a staff member in DiMarco’s office let the attorney heading the campaign to recall embattled Parish President Mike Yenni use the machine on the first day of early voting this week, prompting the lawyer to report the situation to election officials. Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler on Wednesday seized both the machine and the book containing the signatures of voters who had cast ballots on it. Neither will be released until officials begin tabulating early votes on Nov. 8. Schedler said in a letter that his action was “necessary to preserve the transparency and integrity of early voting and to promote confidence within the general public regarding the voting process.”
Schedler’s office declined to elaborate Thursday, citing a pending investigation. However, the office said state law requires all voting machines inside polling places to be “in full view of the public” and accessible to any voter. Asked about the machine in DiMarco’s office, Schedler’s staff said, “We have never heard of such a setup.”
DiMarco said Thursday that the machine was provided for the first time this year as a convenience for people with certain occupations who need to get to work urgently but still want to exercise their right to vote early. For example, he said, police officers, firefighters and military members in uniform would qualify, as would emergency surgeons.
He said early voting crowds have been much larger for this presidential election than in the past, and it fell within his discretion to find a way to shorten the wait for people whose time, “for lack of a better term, is more valuable than others’.” He estimated about 20 people used the machine.